For illustration only.
Photo: Audrey McAvoy (AP)

A spike in serious illnesses possibly related to vaping has been reported in several states in recent months. Now, health officials in Illinois say they have registered the first case of a patient dying after vaping.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported on Friday that an adult had died after being hospitalized with a severe respiratory illness after recently vaping, Axios reported. According to the IDPH, a total of 22 people ranging in age from 17 to 38 have experienced respiratory illness after using e-cigarettes or vaping, a number that has doubled in the past two weeks.

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Per the IDPH, “Affected individuals have experienced respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Some also experienced vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms worsened over a period of days or weeks before admission to the hospital.”

No further information was released about the patient who died, although state health officials said they are working with local health departments to investigate 12 more cases of illness.

This follows a statement on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reported 193 potential cases of severe lung illness associated with vaping in 22 states. The illnesses were reported between June 28 and Aug. 20 of this year. Most of the cases involve adolescents and young adults.

The CDC pointed out that the link between the spike in lung illnesses and vaping is unconfirmed and remains under investigation. To date, evidence does not suggest the illnesses were caused by infectious disease, the CDC said.

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Patients often reported “a gradual start of symptoms including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases reported mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea and fatigue as well,” the CDC stated.

Additionally, many cases involved THC-containing products.

Earlier this month, NPR profiled a spike in illnesses in Wisconsin, where 15 patients have been hospitalized with severe lung injury since July. The only factor linking the patients, who are both men and women, was a history of vaping, NPR said.

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The Washington Post also profiled on Saturday the case of a 20-year-old hiking enthusiast in Utah who fell seriously ill over the course of just two days and nearly died. Doctors who treated the patient, Alexander Mitchell, told the newspaper they had found abnormal immune cells in his lungs usually associated with fatal pneumonia seen in older populations. One of Mitchell’s doctors suspects the illness was linked to vaping.

CDC investigators now are trying to determine if the link to e-cigarettes and vaping can be confirmed, and secondly, whether that link is due to the devices or the ingredients that users inhale.

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Per the Post:

The surge in cases may be the result of something recently added to the oils “to dilute or add to them,” said Scott Aberegg, a University of Utah hospital pulmonologist and critical care specialist, who cared for Mitchell and four other patients at his hospital and consulted on two others at another facility.

Some of the patients had vaped for months and years, he said, so if there had been a previous cluster of cases, “we would have recognized it earlier.”

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Aberegg added: “We don’t know if it’s the propylene glycol or the glycerin or other additives in the vaping liquids put there by the manufacturers, or those things in combination with other adulterants, post manufacturing, when people are adding or mixing them.”